Tag Archives: Labor

The UK reported 12,330 new cases of COVID-19, 205 new deaths | Instant News


FILE PHOTO: A student at the University of St Andrews attends a lateral flow antigen testing facility amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in St Andrews, Scotland, UK, 27 November 2020. REUTERS / Russell Cheyne

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain reported 12,330 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, up from 12,155 the day before and bringing the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 1,629,657, government data show.

A total of 205 new deaths from the disease were also reported, down from 215 the previous day. Great Britain had the highest total death toll in Europe at 58,448.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; edited by Costas Pitas

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A year later, Britain had paid a terrible price for Boris Johnson’s election victory | Instant News


The December 12th anniversary of Boris Johnson’s “petrified” election victory over the weakest opposition in memory looms, and an extraordinary year. Not too much horribilis dose as our classically trained Prime Minister might, in another context, call him “terrible year“.

Deep inside, I can muster a little sympathy for our Beloved Leader. Attacking the Covid-19 pandemic at the start of his term was cruel. Even Johnson’s hero, Winston Churchill, would be in trouble. But the pandemic has exposed him because he is a weak, indecisive and incompetent leader, and the country is paying a terrible price.

It failed to prepare for the first wave in spring, or the second wave in fall. He failed to stockpile PPE, protect nursing homes, provide testing, or enforce a rapid lockdown. Lacking a coherent strategy, he has “veered like a shopping cart” between authoritarianism and libertarianism, between science and political wisdom, between saving lives and saving the economy. Now we’ve been given a brief respite from our terrible tiers so we can go out and spread the virus for five days over Christmas.

The result is the worst of all possible worlds. Although spend more money against Covid-19 (£ 280 billion and up) than any other G7 country except Canada, we also suffer from the second highest death rate after Italy.

[See also: The biggest mistakes made by Boris Johnson’s government during the Covid-19 crisis]

Pandemic is inevitable. Brexit is an option. Last summer the European Union (having mysteriously survived all of Brexiteer’s predictions of its imminent collapse) offered to extend the transition period after December 31, but Johnson in his discretion said no. So chaos will pile up on top of the chaos a month from now.

The post-Christmas spike in Covid will almost certainly coincide with uproar in our ports, disrupted supply lines, higher prices and shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Forecasts for the economy, which contracted by 11.3 percent in 2020 (its worst performance since 1709) will see a few percentage points more of losing growth over the next few years with or without the “oven ready” deals Johnson repeatedly promised 12 months ago.

All the trade agreements he promised failed to materialize not even one with Trump’s America. Its “global UK” cut off foreign aid, dissolved the Department for International Development, cracked down on immigration and was consumed by a narrow and violent nationalism. The pandemic has shattered the myth that our tiny island can lift suspension bridges and “take back control” in this era of globalization.

Far from strengthening Great Britain, Brexit is accelerating disintegration in support for the Scottish wave of independence and Northern Ireland’s fragile peace is under threat. Far from being Singapore-on-Thames with low taxes and low regulations, we are facing a mountain of new bureaucracy and higher taxes to fill black holes in public finances.

AAre the costs of Brexit becoming all the more obvious, and the benefits even more illusory, who but a handful of crazy fanatics will celebrate our “liberation” on New Year’s Eve? And how incredible is it that in last week’s spending review statement, Rishi Sunak failed to mention Brexit once, despite the enormous economic consequences? Even among its supporters, Brexit has become a taboo topic, a dirty word.

Separated by Covid and Brexit, Johnson faces a third major indictment, namely, his humiliation of demeaning his post, undermining government institutions with all its checks and balances, and tarnishing Britain’s reputation in the world.

He explicitly condones violations of international law. He has undermined cabinet government by stuffing himself with compliant mediocrity (remember they all dutifully tweeted their support for Dominic Cummings after he blatantly broke the lockdown rules?). He has attempted to bypass parliament and politicize the civil service. He has tried to scare off the judiciary and the independent media.

[See also: How Priti Patel became unsackable]

The list goes on. He has ousted honest and capable civil servants, often through slander and anonymous briefings, while rewarding his cronies with jobs, aristocratic titles, and lucrative contracts. No other prime minister has been rebuked by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, like Johnson last month, for “packing up the composition of the interview panel with allies” and “the unregulated growth of appointments”.

He bravely and shamelessly refused to dismiss the ministers and assistants no matter how dire their offense was. He supported Priti Patel despite reports that concluded he was bullying civil servants, prompting his adviser to ministry standards to resign in protest. He stood next to Gavin Williamson despite his failed A level result. He continued to Cummings despite his Barnard Castle adventures. He ignored Robert Jenrick’s sleazy deal to build Richard Desmond’s £ 1 billion estate. He refuses to suspend Tory lawmaker accused of rape, but whips out another Conservative, Julian Lewis, who won election as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and published a report on Russian interference in British politics.

Instead of trying to unite our fractured nations, Johnson often taunts the half of the country that voted for Remain. He ruled through a childish three-word slogan. He prefers a fantastic vision – the British space commando and wind farms that power every British home in nine years – to policies rooted in reality. If he really wants Britain to become a “world leader” in green energy, why not end the ten year tax freeze?

Johnson is so extravagant with public money that senior civil servants have requested 17 unprecedented “ministerial directives” to show disagreement with spending decisions they deem risky or wasteful. He has obfuscated, concealed, and played fast and loose with the facts, earning at least two rebukes from the UK Statistics Authority.

He has made so many empty promises the “world beating” app, putting “a tiger in the tank” of the Brexit talks, delivers a pack of viruses within 12 weeks, in the summer, ahead of Christmas, ahead of the next Easter – that she has lost all credibility. As John Major observed in his brilliant speech on November 9, “false optimism is deception by another name.”

A year after Johnson’s election victory, I am struggling to think of one way in which the country has benefited from being prime minister, and I am definitely not alone. His approval rating has dropped to -24. The workers have caught up with the Tories in the poll. Despite having a majority of 80 seats, he struggled to win key parliamentary votes. He had squandered support even from the fawning Tory press, and the “leveling up” process seemed set to be reversed.

The good news is that one of our feeble, featherweight prime minister ended up being forced to ditch Cummings and his Vote Leave henchmen in favor of adults like Simon Case and Dan Rosenfield – and now there are only four years left until the next election.

[See also: The US’s nightmare is finally over but the UK’s is just beginning]

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Philip Green’s Arcadia UK fashion group falls into administration | Instant News


LONDON (Reuters) – British tycoon Arcadia fashion group Philip Green has collapsed into administration, putting more than 13,000 jobs at risk and falling victim to the country’s biggest employer from the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

Pedestrians walk past the Topshop shop, owned by the Arcadia group on Oxford Street in London, England, November 30, 2020. REUTERS / Simon Dawson

Deloitte said Monday night that they have been appointed as administrators of Arcadia and will seek buyers for the group’s brands: Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Evans, Burton and Outfit.

The group trades from 444 sites rented in the UK and 22 abroad.

Deloitte said the Arcadia store will continue to trade, its online platform will continue to operate and supply to concession partners will continue.

It said no redundancy would be announced immediately.

“We will immediately seek expressions of interest and hope to identify one or more buyers to ensure future business success,” said Matt Smith, Deloitte co-administrator.

Green, pictured over a weekend in Monaco where his 100 million pound ($ 133.26 million) super yacht Lionheart was docked, acquired Arcadia for 850 million pounds in 2002.

He did not immediately comment but his CEO blamed Arcadia’s death emphatically on the pandemic.

“In the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have experienced, the obstacles we face are too formidable,” said Ian Grabiner.

British Business Minister, Alok Sharma, said his administration was “very sad news” and the British government would support those affected.

While the COVID-19 lockdown pushed Arcadia to the edge, it has struggled in recent years, underinvesting and failing to keep up with competitors in the growing online retail sector.

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Its brands lie between the likes of Zara, H&M, and Primark Inditex and online-only players ASOS and Boohoo.

The restructuring deal was approved by creditors last year, cutting leases and closing shops, but proved to be only a temporary hiatus.

SALES PROCESS

Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group said Monday that they are interested in participating in any Arcadia sales process.

Topshop, once a top destination for teenagers and fashion lovers, is considered by analysts to be Arcadia’s most attractive asset.

Media reports have also identified Marks & Spencer, Next and Boohoo, as well as private equity players, as potential bidders for individual brands. The three companies declined to comment.

The collapse of Arcadia could have a major impact on the future of the Debenhams department store chain, which is already in administration and employs 12,000 people.

Arcadia is one of Debenhams’ largest concessionaires.

JD Sports Fashion shares, which have been linked with the Debenhams takeover, closed up 5.9%, indicating a loss of interest. Frasers shares closed down 5.7%.

PENSION FUND DEFICIT

Arcadia’s workforce also faces uncertainty over the company’s pension fund deficit, which analysts estimate to be around 350 million pounds.

As part of last year’s restructuring, Arcadia agreed to guarantee 210 million pounds of property assets for the pension scheme, while Tina Green, Philip’s wife and Arcadia’s final owner, agreed to contribute 100 million pounds to the scheme over three years.

“Philip Green must do the right thing and fill the Arcadia pension deficit,” said opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer.

If he doesn’t pay, the 10,000 members of the Arcadia pension scheme will still have to receive most of their entitlements through the government’s lifeboat scheme, the Pension Protection Fund.

Sharma said administrators have three months to file a report on Arcadia director’s behavior with The Insolvency Service that will determine whether a full investigation is needed.

“I will continue to monitor this process,” he said.

Even before the pandemic, brick and mortar clothing retailers in Britain faced major structural challenges with the economy of operating traditional rental stores proving increasingly difficult as more trade migrated online.

This year Oasis, Warehouse, Laura Ashley, Peacocks and Jaeger have fallen into administration.

Reporting by James Davey in London; Edited by Estelle Shirbon, Rosalba O’Brien and Matthew Lewis

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Unilever tries to work four days a week in New Zealand | Instant News


WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Global consumer goods giant Unilever said on Tuesday it was ready to try out a four-day week for all New Zealand employees.

FILE PHOTOS: Company logo for Unilever in New York, USA, February 17, 2017. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid

Unilever said all 81 staff members at its offices across New Zealand will be able to participate in the trial, which starts next week and will run for 12 months to December next year.

Employees will be paid for five days while working only four days.

Unilever New Zealand Managing Director Nick Bangs said the goal was to change the way work was done, not add more hours to work in four days.

“If we end up in a situation where the team works an extended four days then we miss the point,” he said.

“We don’t want our team to have very long days, but bring material changes to the way they work.”

After 12 months, Unilever will assess the outcome of the move and see how it can work for its 155,000 employees globally.

“This is an experiment. We do not make commitments more than 12 months after and after New Zealand. But we think there will be some good lessons that we can gather at this time, “he said.

There is no manufacture in New Zealand and all staff are in sales, distribution and marketing.

A shorter workweek has been debated for a while in New Zealand with plantation planning firm Perpetual Guardian making headlines last year for spearheading the idea and claiming to have seen a big increase in productivity.

The idea gained momentum this year when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged companies to look at the four-day week to offer flexibility to employees amid the coronavirus pandemic. He also said it could help boost domestic tourism while keeping international borders closed.

“When the prime minister talks about it in the context of what the future work is like, it is an encouragement for us,” Bangs said.

However, the New Zealand government has not yet accepted the idea in office.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Edited by Tom Brown

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What the German anti-lockdown protests have revealed about the country | Instant News


On a recent Sunday, anti-locking protesters passed under my window, which overlooks one of Berlin’s main highways. They call themselves Lateral thinker, “Lateral thinkers”.

To my untrained eye, there weren’t many demonstrators who resembled fascists, although perhaps at least some of their shaved heads were hidden by beanie hats. There were teenagers, old women dodging along with pedestrians, and middle-aged men wearing face masks proclaiming “the masks of hell,” accompanied by bored riot police. They were greeted by local residents and anti-fascists dressed in black hitting pots and chanting “Nazis get out!”.

The weekly protests drew a wide range of ideological tendencies, from hippies dressed in sandals to “Reich citizens,” an eccentric right-wing group that denied the legitimacy of the postwar Federal Republic. Others do not own trucks with such fringe groups but worry whether their livelihoods can survive the economic crisis, although support for businesses and individuals by European standards is relatively generous in Germany.

File uniqueness Lateral thinker – which remains a minority movement, with polls showing up to 85 percent of Germans against – is that they present themselves not as violators of the liberal constitutional order but as defenders. As skeptics of the government’s decision to limit personal freedoms in response to the pandemic, they argue that “the elite in Berlin distorted the language of the 1949 Constitution – the German constitution – and distorted its spirit and meaning by violating their right to free speech and free assembly,” “Says Paul Betts, European historian at the University of Oxford.

[see also: How Viktor Orbán’s deepening power in Hungary is breaking the EU]

Most of the Language about civil rights is undoubtedly insincere. Yet the lexicon of constitutionalism is a key tool for expressing opposition to the Covid-19 measures illustrates how anchored German political culture is in “constitutional patriotism”, a concept popularized by philosopher Jürgen Habermas in the 1980s. According to Habermas, West German nationality can no longer be based on ethnicity and territory but must revolve around universal values ​​expressed in the postwar constitution, first and foremost the liberal democratic order.

In the absence of a single country or a consensual history – nothing in store for a divided Germany – constitutional patriotism would allow West Germans to claim to have no blood heritage and bleak land nationalism. As one of the former constitutional judges put it, The Constitution not only provided an antidote to the Nazi conception of society, its principles also enabled the Federal Republic to once again join the ranks of the “civilized states”.

That Lateral thinker and Anti-lockdown Alternative for Germany (AfD) are not afraid to use hyperbolic rhetoric to make their case. Their comparisons with the Nazi era are, for most Germans, an exaggeration. In a park in central Berlin, graffiti inscribed: “Where are the dead? (Where are the dead?) 03/23/1933 = 11/18/2020 “ignoring teenagers on rickety skateboards and expensive craft breweries. Evoking the legacy of the 1933 Activation Act, which gave Adolf Hitler unlimited power, to delegitimize the Protection from Infection Act, the recent anti-Covid-19 legislation, clandestine scribbles echo some of the most radical rhetoric heard in German politics since the anti-Islamic March was triggered by the 2015 refugee crisis.

The graffiti echoes a comparison between the Protection from Infection Act and the Enabling Act drawn by AfD MPs during a German parliamentary debate. A few days later, a 22-year-old man in the city of Kassel compares himself to anti-Nazi resistance heroine Sophie Scholl, causing an onlookers (possibly a security guard hired to oversee the event) to claim that the woman was “belittling the Holocaust,” in footage that went viral all over Germany. The point of such equations is clear: to present Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government as a threat to the constitution and civil liberties akin to National Socialism.

[see also: To understand Germany’s successes, we must concentrate less on Angela Merkel]

The Nazi analogy used by top politicians is not only blatantly false, but also utterly ridiculous, a desperate call for relevance as Merkel approaches the end of her term next year with the highest poll ratings of any German politician (after 15 years in office). His Christian Democratic Union party is on track to be re-elected for a fifth consecutive term at next year’s general election with the new chancellor candidates.

But the language of constitutional rights, which is the main expression of opposition to the coronavirus measures, illustrates the power of constitutional patriotism in Germany. Even those who find government restrictions necessary and proportionate remain wary of seeing their civil liberties suspended. To East Germans, the memory of the surveillance of the communist-era Stasi loomed large. A former dissident, Angelika Barbe, later a member of parliament, compared the current government to the Socialist Unity Party for a long time he was once against.

The vast majority of Germans trust the government and are willing to give up their freedoms for the greater good – temporarily. Like Andreas Vosskuhle, former president of the Federal Constitutional Court debate Early in the pandemic, heated debate about the legitimacy of the lockdown showed that Germany had become a constitutional patriot.

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